Saturday, November 26, 2011

Halibut with Warm Fennel and Japanese Yam Salad

We're still up in Tahoe until Monday morning and it's been very basic food wise on our end.  I've been able to get out breakfast every morning, lunch and dinner have been less stable.  We try to order soup at every turn but most restaurants up here can't seem to keep dairy out of their food.  It has been particularly trying for Leo, but we're hanging in there.  Luckily, there's a great market in both Tahoe City and Truckee, New Moon Natural Foods.  While pricing is a little higher here for regular grocery items, they stock everything that's great at Whole Foods and they have a fantastic deli at the Tahoe City location, The Uncommon Kitchen, as well as a juice bar in Truckee. 

This recipe is from a few weeks back, but a great break from all the heavy food this past week.  Fennel will be making a strong showing on this blog over the season--I hope you come to love this root vegetable as much as I do...

I don't make fish that often, mostly because I'm not very good at cooking it and also because I have a hard time buying it at the grocery store (any store--they all get their fish from 2 or 3 distributors in the area that are just okay).  So today I went to Fish in Sausalito and got some beautiful filets from them. 2XSea is their purveyor  for this particular fish and it was 21.99 a lb.--4 6oz. filets cost me $32.00.  A bit steep for dinner, but the results were well worth it.  I tweaked this recipe from "Simply Ming". It comes together pretty quick once you start the fish part, so if doing a salad, get that going before you start the fish.

Sunflower oil for cooking, plus 2 TBSP.
4 Japanese Yams--dark red skin, white flesh.  These hold up well to sautéing and won't fall apart.
4 Halibut filets, 6-8 oz., skin removed
2 fennel bulbs, halved, cored, sliced 1/16" thin (not quite paper thin), tossed with the juice of 1 lemon to keep from browning
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
5 TBSP. Three-Vinegar Syrup*--make this earlier in the day!

Preheat the oven to 200.  Line a large ovenproof plate with paper towels and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron pan over high heat (you can use nonstick but beware of the toxic issues... ) Add enough oil to fill the pan by 1/4 inch and heat.  Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Shake the pan to ensure that no potatoes are sticking.  Turn the potatoes about 3-4 min. in and let them get golden. Total time about 10 min.  Transfer the potatoes with the cooking oil into the prepared reserved plate and put in the oven to keep warm. (You can prep the fennel if you haven't already while this is going)

Wipe the pan.   Season the halibut with salt and pepper.  Reheat the pan over high heat.  Add the 2 Tbsp. of oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the halibut sauté, turning once, until brown and just cooked through, 6-10 minutes total depending on the thickness of the fish.

While the fish is going, combine the fennel and the potatoes with their oil, the chives, and 3 TBSP. of the Three Vinegar Syrup.  Season with Salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.

Garnish 4 serving plates with some of the remaining syrup.  Mound the potato mixture on each and drizzle the remaining syrup over the portions.  Top with the halibut and serve.

Three-Vinegar Syrup

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup Chinese black vinegar OR additional 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar plus 1 piece of star anise (you can get the black vinegar at the Asian market behind Peet's next to Whole Foods in San Rafael)

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the vinegars (and star anise, if using) and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Continue to simmer until the mixture is reduced by about 80% and thickly syrupy, 1-1.5 hours.  (If using the star anise, remove it after the first 30 min. of cooking) To test for proper consistency, drizzle a little of the syrup on a chilled plate.  It should keep its shape when the plate is tilted.  Use or store (4 weeks refrigerated)...

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